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Thank you for saying yes! Gathering on Sunday is an essential part of the Savior’s kingdom. Your speaking and sharing what you know contributes to everyone’s day. You can turn any topic into a great talk, mostly by sharing a couple of pieces of yourself: your failures, your hard-earned successes, your ah-ha moments, your favorite aspects of the gospel, and what you feel to be good and true.
Here is a tried, and true formula for preparing a talk. It may appear simple, but it flows nicely from the pulpit.
4 Steps to a Great Sacrament Meeting Talk
1 Share an easy-to-understand, basic definition of the principle or topic you’ll be speaking about.
2 Tell a personable story that illustrates the principle (use your own whenever possible).
3 Use 1-2 scripture references (no more!). Good to share some backstory or historical background about the verse, like who is speaking and what is taking place.
4 Close with your: testimony, personal feelings, gratitude, or your own story about the topic.
Note: steps 2 and 3 are interchangeable.
Want an even better talk?
Try out a couple of these tips:
- Make cue cards or a list of cues on a sheet of paper. Rather than write out every word of your talk, make 1-3 word prompts that will remind you what comes next. Relax, it doesn’t have to be delivered in the most, perfect brilliant way (like you could at home) to be effective and memorable. Cue your favorite parts on your cards or sheet of paper so you make sure to cover them.
- Talk like you would to your friends in the foyer. Very few people are interested in a lecturer or in anyone’s self-authority. Be yourself and deliver in a more conversational way or use a story-telling style.
- Look down as little as possible. Let them see your eyes and your face. If you feel nervous about making eye contact, look above the heads in front and look to the back of the chapel. Facial expressions and gestures measurably increase how much of your talk they absorb.
- Practice your talk in private several times – like in front of a bathroom mirror. See how it sounds out loud to yourself and make the necessary changes. (You’ll be surprised by how it sounds out loud – so don’t let the pulpit be the first time.) How often do you have to look down at your material – can you look up more?
- Try to do as much from natural memory as possible. Even if you can only memorize short parts of it – that is better than hanging your head and reading all of it.
- Smile. Work in a natural smile every minute or less. Smiles increase people’s attention in any situation.
- Feeling emotion and crying at the pulpit is not an automatic sign of spirituality or the presence of the Spirit (credit to Howard W. Hunter for pointing that out.) (Kind acts and service to the Lord during the week that no one sees are true spirituality. ~Marvin J. Ashton) Some of the most powerful talks ever delivered at a General Conference don’t have a tear in them and are delivered by those who seldom cry or very little when they do. Don’t automatically be impressed with those who regularly demonstrate emotions/crying or who can sway emotions at the pulpit – so often, that’s the extent of their giving.
To clarify the point: do not purposely plan tear-jerkers; they are not that effective and do not leave lasting impressions. If emotions come naturally and sincerely on their own – that’s fine…just don’t purposely include them as a formula to virtue-signal a spiritual talk. Honestly, a majority of the congregation can tell if you’re pushing emotion on yourself or others and it will detract from your message.
- Remember, the Holy Ghost bears witness within all emotions. Humor, wit, passion, humility, compassion, excitement, courage, sharing of talents, etc. True manifestations of the Spirit enliven us and upgrade us. What does the Spirit feel like? The Spirit increases our peace, our joys, our confidence, and our sense of well-being. You feel more alive. (See “The Difference Between the Spirit of the Lord and the Holy Ghost if you would like to learn more.)
- Omit travel logs or even worse – a health log. If you’re in the habit of trying to get attention on account of your health issues…try putting that down and making your life about other things as well. You are more than the illness or impairment that afflicts you – don’t center your identity on that (to yourself or others).
Sacrament Talk Ideas Ready to Go
- President Nelson Series has multiple talk ideas, and talk helps
- Social Justice (topics: social injustice, persecution, anger, peace, indignation, blaming, emotions, addictions)
- What is Christ’s Personality? (topics: Jesus, Savior, Christ, being christ-like, grace, mercy)
- 3 Surprising Roadblocks to Happiness (topics: social dynamics, pride, envy, gossip, happiness)
- Which Inner Voice (topics: listening to the Spirit, negativity, self-improvement, mindset, conquering thoughts)
- Forgiving Others (topics: forgiveness, peace of mind, difficult people)
- How to Prosper (topics: progress, well-being, industry, self-reliance, debt)
- Modern Prophet, Modern Miracles (topics: prophet, modern revelation)
- Ineffective Prayers (topics: prayer, difficult people, well-being, timing)